west lodge food bank

Toronto residents get their massive landlord to donate an apartment to help feed tenants

An group of tenants has managed to get one of the city's biggest landlords to give them a free apartment to help distribute food to those in need, many of whom are fell0w residents in the large west-end complex.

The tenant-run West Lodge Food Bank has finally secured one of the 200 empty units in their building at 103-105 West Lodge Ave, free of cost, after having simply taken it over for six weeks. 

It started when a group of about five volunteers occupied a vacant apartment for one day that had been left open during renovation just after Christmas. They then fully moved operations into another unit when a neighbour moved out.

"We just decided it was our only option," Paterson Hodgson, a five-year tenant of the building and food bank organizer, told blogTO. "We knew that there were hundreds of empty units, so we decided to just go for it."

Before this, they were serving about 100 families a month out of the lobby, until they had to move outdoors when COVID cases started to rise in December.

"There are lots of possible negative consequences from moving into an empty apartment," Hodgson says. "But as soon as people came and got their food, and we distributed it, it just made sense. It makes no sense for there to be empty units that no one can use."

Although it might've been a risky move, they've now been able to secure an agreement from landlord Hazelview stating they can operate the food bank out of the space rent-free. 

Hazelview is a newly re-branded division of Timbercreek, a massive residential and commercial landlord that owns, manages or has investments in hundreds of properties worth $8.9 billion.

Besides making it safer and easier to get food, masks and hand sanitizer to about 40 to 60 households in need every two weeks, Hodgson hopes it's going to push Hazelview to fill up the vacant apartments faster and think twice before evicting others.

"Empty units negatively impact us as tenants in a lot of different ways," she says. "One obvious way is just that our community members are gone and missing. Empty units mean people were evicted, pushed out, or had to leave because they couldn't afford it."

According to Hodgson, there were about 15 eviction hearings for the Parkdale building in a two-week span at the beginning of 2020, with plenty more displacements in the years leading up. 

"We're not just fighting for the food and masks," says Hodgson about the West Lodge Food Bank. "We're fighting for space. We're fighting for respect. We're fighting for rents to be affordable. It's all connected, and this is just the beginning."

Anyone can donate money via the PayPal button on their website to help them buy food to distribute.

Lead photo by

West Lodge Food Bank

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